Several overlooked players worthy of being on ballot
Cervelli, Francisco, Gattis, Nava among those who have had early-season success
If All-Star balloting has arrived, it means that arguments about All-Star balloting will be starting, oh, any second now. That's half the fun of the All-Star Game, after all.
So let's start with this one: Players who aren't even on the ballot, but deserve to be. There's no Bryce Harper-type supernova likely to dominate conversation, but there are certainly a few players who deserve to have their names mentioned.
Some have stepped in for injured teammates. Some have emerged as essential after starting the year in platoons. And it's distinctly possible that none of them will end up representing their teams at Citi Field in July. But for now, in April, they at least deserve a tip of the cap and maybe a few write-in votes.
Francisco Cervelli, Yankees: New York began the year with a job-share -- and huge questions -- at catcher. Three weeks into the season, the Yankees have a starter and at least a few answers.
Cervelli has been a perplexing offensive player, showing promise at times and struggling at times. This year, though, he's hit. He enters play Wednesday with a .283/.389/.478 (average/on-base/slugging) line and more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven). Odds are, he won't keep it up, and besides, the competition among American League catchers is fierce. But Cervelli at least deserves some acknowledgement for emerging as a valuable option for the Yanks in the early going.
Juan Francisco, Braves: Like Cervelli, Francisco began the year as part of a platoon. Unlike Cervelli, he's likely to be back in one again very soon. Thus far, though, Francisco has been playing regularly and raking. Long a promising power source, Francisco is also getting some base hits to go along with the home runs. He's also played adequate defense, addressing what at times has been a concern.
The problem for Francisco is that with Freddie Freeman back in the lineup, he'll once again be fighting the equally hot Chris Johnson for playing time at third base. Johnson had shifted to first while Freeman was injured. Still, if Francisco keeps hitting, he'll keep playing a good bit, and maybe he'll earn a few votes.
Evan Gattis, Braves: One of the best stories of the young season, Gattis has already launched five home runs, and "El Oso Blanco" put up big numbers all over the Minor Leagues. Gattis is a legitimate hitter, and he also has a remarkable backstory. It took an injury to Brian McCann for him to get the chance to show his ability, but you can bet that Gattis won't be sent down when McCann returns to action.
The question is where he'll play when that time comes. Gattis will have to share time with both McCann and Gerald Laird, or steal a few at-bats from Freeman at first, or perhaps see some time in the outfield -- another area where Atlanta is loaded. Some way, somehow, the Braves will need to get his bat in the lineup, though.
Daniel Nava, Red Sox: The Sox brought in an army of corner/designated hitter types over the winter, but one of their most productive players is someone who was already around. Nava enters play Wednesday with a .302/.409/.566 line, four homers, 14 RBIs and 10 runs scored. The Red Sox's offensive outburst this year has been a team effort, but Nava has been one of the biggest parts.
Nava has long shown on-base ability, but the power is new. If he can keep both up, he'll keep playing. He's already beating out Jonny Gomes for at-bats, so it's not as though someone is going to come back and force him to the bench. The AL outfield is not as loaded this year as it's been some years, so perhaps Nava will get a decent share of write-in votes, or even contend for a reserve spot.
Seth Smith, A's: Smith's counting stats aren't all that great, but his rate stats are quite gaudy. He's hitting .377 with a .468 OBP and a .604 slugging percentage as of Wednesday afternoon, thriving while Yoenis Cespedes is on the disabled list. Unfortunately for Smith (but fortunately for the A's), Cespedes could return soon. When that happens, at-bats will get a lot more scarce for Smith, since Oakland has an abundance of outfielders. But Smith has been a productive big league hitter before, so he might well keep producing.
Vernon Wells, Yankees: Another surprising Yankee, Wells has smashed the ball for his new team. He entered Wednesday with a .296/.367/.563 line, and most of his production hasn't even come at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Curtis Granderson is on the way back, but there should still be no shortage of chances for Wells to keep playing as long as he keeps hitting.
Neither Ichiro Suzuki nor Brett Gardner has exactly lit it up, and Wells could also get some time at designated hitter against lefties. If he hits, he'll play. And if Wells plays, he'll have chances to put up counting stats and get attention.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, July 4, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Fans may submit twenty-five (25) online ballots during the voting period, but can also earn a one-time bonus of ten (10) additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, visit www.mlb.com and register in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans can also once again participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The 2013 Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 15.
The 2013 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 7, on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com on MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.